Online educator and teacher at Acadsoc, Ltd.
With the advent of technology, communication via the internet has been made possible. This has led to a number of great inventions and innovations. One of them has been the ability to virtually communicate with friends, family and just about anyone shooting half way across the world. Such communication has also made possible distance education.
Distance education entails imparting of education where the students do not need to be present in an actual class room or lecture theatre but can be connected to their teachers via the internet. This kind of a scenario where the teacher and the student are not necessarily present in the same room but are connected to each other virtually while actually being present in geographically different places is known as distance learning or distance education.
Distance education has both merits as well as demerits. This article aims to understand the concept of distance education, what it is and how it came into being. This essay shall also go through the advantages as well as disadvantages related to distance education and what the future of distance learning looks like.
What is Distance Education?
Distance education, also known as distance learning is the education of students wherein they are not physically present in an educational institute such as a school, college or a university. In such a case the students are virtually connected with their professors, tutors or teachers via the internet. In earlier days, distance education was conducted via postal services and included correspondence courses. In the modern day, technology and internet have made distance learning simpler, quicker and hassle free. Distance learning also happens to be synonymous to a number of other terms such as distance learning, distributed learning, online learning as well as e-learning.
It was in the year 1782 that one of the first attempts at a sort of distance education was advertised by Sir Isaac Pitman. He was seeking students who wanted to learn shorthand via weekly mailed lessons. The advertisement was run in the Boston Gazette. Pittman used to send out short lessons on postcards to his students who would then send back transcriptions for correction. Such a system of distance learning was made possible after the postage rates in England were made uniform in the year 1840. Soon after, such a method of distance learning became quite popular and the Photographic Correspondence Society was formed shortly after the success of Sir Isaac Pitman’s way of imparting education. In the year 1873, the first correspondence school offering distance learning courses was formed and was called as the Society to Encourage Studies at Home.
Over the last decade, online distance education has become a common mode of study in most states in the USA, where it is known as virtual schooling (VS), but many people have misconceptions about it (Veletsianos, 2017). Distance education can be divided into two main groups which are called as synchronous learning and asynchronous learning. In synchronous learning a number of students who are remotely located geographically are all present online at the same time. In asynchronous learning however, such is not the case and different students may be present online at different times. Synchronous learning requires timetables and dedicated schedules to be followed by one and all while in an asynchronous learning scenario, the students have the flexibility of managing their respective schedules as per their own convenience. Though two degrees cannot generally be pursued simultaneously, a student can pursue two programs simultaneously through the distance mode or combination of distance and regular modes from the same or different universities/institutions in the following various combinations (Bijeesh, 2015).
Advantages of distance learning
There are a number of advantages to distance learning and education. A few of them are discussed below.
- The biggest advantage of a distance learning program is that it allows flexibility to the students who are taking such courses in terms of managing their time and schedules. It provides efficient use of time(Schmitz, 2010). The students are able to set their pace of study as per their convenience as well as individual preferences or time availabilities.
- The geographical factor no longer remains an issue. If one has an internet connection, he or she can enroll and get a degree from anywhere in the world no matter what their actual geographical location is.
- Distance learning courses also happen to be a lot less expensive as opposed to a full-time degree. Therefore, this is a very economically viable option, easy on the pockets(Rao, 2017).
- One can enroll themselves in graduate, post graduate as well as courses that happen to be of a professional level. Universities offer such courses also make sure that they provide the same level and quality of education to a student enrolled in a distance education course that they are offering to full time students.
Disadvantages of Distance Learning
Just as with any other technology, distance learning has its down sides too. Some of these are discussed below.
- One of the biggest demerits of distance education is that it lacks personal interaction between students as well as teachers. This can sometimes prove to be negatively affecting a student’s studies if he or she feels disconnected or unable to understand what their being taught.
- Another downside to distance learning is that it is completely dependent on technology. As the student is going to be connected to their teacher or tutor via the internet, any technical problems that might occur can hinder the student’s progress.
- Another issue with distance learning is that there is a complete lack of discipline in such a program. As the student can decide when he or she wants to study and there are no set rules, schedules and timetables, such leniency can result in the student avoiding study sessions altogether. For those who don’t have the self-motivation these classes can result in spending a lot of money on retaking classes because you’ve forgotten an assignment(Hutt, 2017).
Future of distance learning education
The future of distance education entails stricter regulations as well as increase in the scrutiny as the number of identity theft and online fraud cases has grown exponentially. More secure ways of student identification and verification seem to be in order. Distance education has grown in different dimensions to become the chosen route for higher education (Pop, 2016).
A large population of the world struggles with being able to afford higher education. While distance courses are comparatively cheaper they can still be a bit on the expensive side. As more and more people come to know about distance learning and begin to get accustomed to it, prices of such courses are expected to drop down. Distance education courses are also expected to add a large number of courses and fields in the future which are currently not available. Hopefully, such changes shall also increase the validity of online courses.
Distance education involves the education of a student where he or she can study at their own pace and as per their own convenience. There is not fixed time or set hours. The student is connected to their teachers and professors through the internet. Distance learning happens to have more advantages to it as compared to the disadvantages. In addition to being cheaper than a full-time degree, distance learning courses provide students the ability to manage their students as per their individual schedules. The students have the flexibility to set their own pace, time as well as schedules.
Bijeesh, N. A. (2015, May 5). 5 things to know about distance education in India. Retrieved November 9, 2017, from Indiaeducation.net: http://www.indiaeducation.net/online-education/articles/5-things-to-know-about-distance-education-in-india.html
Hutt, M. (2017, July 26). Top 10 Disadvantages of Distance Learning. Retrieved November 9, 2017, from eztalks: https://www.eztalks.com/elearning/top-10-disadvantages-of-distance-learning.html
Pop, A. (2016, October 1). How Distance Learning Degrees are Changing Higher Education for the Better. Retrieved November 9, 2017, from Distance Learning Portal: https://www.distancelearningportal.com/articles/143/how-distance-learning-degrees-are-changing-higher-education-for-the-better.html
Rao, N. (2017, July 20). Pros and Cons of Distance Learning. Retrieved November 8, 2017, from htcampus: http://www.htcampus.com/article/advantages-disadvantages-distance-learning-612/
Schmitz, C. A. (2010, October 25). Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Learning. Retrieved November 9, 2017, from uiowa.edu: https://wiki.uiowa.edu/display/edtech/Advantages+and+Disadvantages+of+Distance+Learning
Veletsianos, G. (2017, April 2). Interesting articles in Distance Education Journal. Retrieved November 8, 2017, from veletsianos: http://www.veletsianos.com/2010/04/22/distance-education-articles/